Shannon Ebrahim interviews Chinese ambassador Chen Xiaodon.
Question: At China’s initiative, the UN Security Council held an Open Debate on “Peace and Security in Africa: Addressing Root Causes of Conflict in Post-Pandemic Recovery in Africa”, where Africa and China jointly launched the Initiative on Partnership for Africa’s Development. Can you tell us about the main content of the meeting and the initiative, as well as China’s consideration in promoting the above initiative?
Ambassador Xiaodon: During China’s rotating Presidency of the Security Council, we took the initiative to convene an Open Debate on “Peace and Security in Africa: Addressing Root Causes of Conflict in Post-Pandemic Recovery in Africa”, and worked to deliver a statement by the President of the Security Council drafted by China. At the meeting, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi put forward a four-point proposal, namely to help Africa reduce the gap in Covid response, tackle the peace deficit, narrow the development gap and redress injustice in global governance.
Faced with this pandemic of a century, China and Africa jointly launched the Initiative on Partnership for Africa’s Development. This Initiative calls on the international community to increase support for Africa in Covid-19 response, post-Covid reconstruction, peace and security, trade and investment, debt relief, food security, poverty alleviation, climate change, industrialization, among others, and to invest resources in the areas most urgently needed by Africa. China has been helping Africa to overcome difficulties and take great strides forward.
China and Africa have always been good brothers and partners who share weal and woe together. We are in a China-Africa community with a shared future. As the pandemic poses serious challenges to Africa’s peaceful development, our hearts go all out to Africa.
China is holding the Open Debate this time to get the international community to pay attention to the serious challenges Africa faces in its peaceful development in this pandemic. We aim to build consensus and synergy, to work with African countries to defeat the virus, carry out post-Covid reconstruction, eliminate the root causes of conflicts, and inject new impetus for lasting peace and sustainable development in Africa.
Multilateralism, in and of itself, calls for joint efforts to promote Africa’s development. China and Africa’s joint launching of the initiative shows to the world what real multilateralism is all about. In the early days of the UN, only four of its 51 member states at the time were from Africa.
Seventy-six years later today, African countries account for 54 seats, or more than a quarter of the UN membership. This is more of a qualitative change than just a quantitative increase for African countries seeking strength through unity. In the 21st century, the UN won’t be able to hold its political or moral ground if it fails to pay attention to the peace in Africa, or to help Africa with its development. Without African countries’ support or participation, UN undertakings won’t be in good shape.
We look forward to holding summits and other high-level meetings with African countries, in order to strengthen coordination among various international partners’ cooperation mechanisms with Africa. We wish to strengthen North-South cooperation based on respect for the aspirations of African countries, to deepen South-South cooperation and to jointly pursue Belt and Road cooperation.
We encourage and promote tripartite and multi-party cooperation with Africa in line with the principle of African ownership, equality and openness and galvanise strong support for Africa’s development.
Question: As Covid-19 continues to spread and a third wave was declared in some areas of South Africa. Mass vaccination is key to get economic and social life here back on track. Many African countries are facing vaccine shortages. How do you think the Initiative will help African countries address the pandemic, for example, by more cooperation on vaccines?
Ambassador Xiaodon: Africa is an important part of the global fight against Covid-19. It is imperative to build a line of defence against the virus in Africa. China has been firmly supporting Africa in fighting the virus. In the wake of the pandemic, the 46 Chinese medical teams based in Africa stood up to the challenge instantly to support local response efforts. China has sent 15 ad hoc medical expert teams to Africa and swiftly set up a cooperation mechanism for Chinese hospitals to pair up with 43 African hospitals. They brought containment experience, solutions and supplies to Africa.
The biggest challenge facing Africa today is that of vaccines. China has provided and is providing much-needed Covid-19 vaccines to more than 30 African countries in need.
At the Global Health Summit held on the 21st, President Xi Jinping announced that in addition to the 300 million doses of vaccine already supplied to the world, China will do its best to provide more vaccines to other countries. China supports its vaccine companies in transferring technologies to other developing countries and carrying out joint production with them.
China supports the World Trade Organization and other international institutions in making an early decision on waiving intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines. China proposes setting up an international forum on vaccine cooperation for vaccine-developing and producing countries, companies and other stakeholders to explore ways of promoting fair and equitable distribution of vaccines around the world.
President Xi Jinping has also announced that China will provide an additional US$3 billion in international aid over the next three years to support Covid-19 response and economic and social recovery in other developing countries including in Africa. We call on the international community to further help Africa in terms of response supplies, medicine, technology and funding.
We call on the countries with the capacity to urgently provide safe and effective vaccines to African countries in need. In particular, vaccines should be made accessible and affordable in Africa through various means such as providing grants, favourable purchases, technology transfer, and co-production.
Sinopharm of China is actively supplying vaccines to Covax after their vaccine got listed for emergency use by WHO. The Sinovac vaccine from China is also in the finalstages of review and registration by the South Africa Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra). We look forward to seeing Chinese vaccines delivered in South Africa, so as to benefit the South African people as soon as possible.
Question: Covid-19 has hit economies around the world to varying degrees, with sub-Saharan Africa plunging into its first recession in 25 years and facing even more severe development difficulties. China has taken the lead among major economies in economic recovery. What do you think the initiative means for Africa to rebuild post-Covid and achieve sustainable development?
Ambassador Xiaodon: A peaceful environment is crucial for Africa to rebuild post-Covid and achieve sustainable economic and social development. The virus has caused serious social, economic, political, humanitarian and security consequences for Africa and compounded conflicts and turmoil in the region, which have in turn taken a toll on Covid-19 response efforts across Africa.
This context also explains why China jointly proposed the initiative with African countries this time.
China is a strong defender of Africa’s peace and stability as well as an active contributor to Africa’s development and rejuvenation. The Chinese navy fleets have carried out 37 missions to escort vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden. As we speak, 2 043 Chinese peacekeepers are in Africa, working day and night for the peace of the continent.
Over the past 20 years since the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was established, China-Africa trade and China’s total investment in Africa have increased 20 times and 100 times respectively.
China has fully implemented the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative, signed or reached agreement with 16 African countries on debt service suspension, and cancelled the debts of 15 African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that were due to mature by the end of 2020 within the framework of FOCAC. Just a few days ago, Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng attended the summit on financing Africa’s post-pandemic recovery via video link and put forward China’s initiatives to continue and restore the momentum of Africa’s development.
The African continent is a big stage for international cooperation. China supports African countries and regional organisations such as the African Union in their efforts to solve African problems with African solutions. We support the implementation of the ’’silencing of the guns’’ initiative in Africa.
We support countries in the region to take active measures to address the threat of terrorism. We support the UN in its efforts to provide predictable and sustainable financial support solutions for African-owned peace operations. We support the pooling of efforts of the international community to help Africa ensure post-Covid reconstruction and eliminate the root causes of conflicts.
The new session of FOCAC will be held in 2021. We are ready to take this opportunity to work with African countries to discuss cooperation in three key areas of cooperation, namely on Covid-19 response, economic recovery, transformation and development. We are ready to strengthen cooperation with the African side in health, production capacity, regional connectivity, the environment, agriculture, military security, personnel and skills training. We are ready to work to see the initiative fully implemented.
We support Africa in exploring development paths that are in line with its own conditions. We call on developed countries to take pragmatic initiatives in debt relief, development assistance, technology transfer and other areas and fulfil their due international obligations as well as responsibilities. We actively support connecting the world’s industrial and supply chains with Africa,and promoting synergy between the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and AU Agenda 2063.
On May 25, the African people will celebrate the 58th Africa Day. Fifty-eight years ago, the Organisation of African Unity was born, which advocated that African countries strengthen unity, preserve independence and unleash potential. China-Africa friendship was forged in the struggles for national independence and liberation as well as the dedication to economic growth and improving people’s livelihood.
As changes unseen in a century is compounded by this major pandemic, China and Africa will move forward in solidarity and gather the huge strength of 2.7 billion Chinese and African people combined. We believe that the future of China-Africa cooperation post-Covid will be brighter and a closer China-Africa community with a shared future destiny will bear more fruit.
Last but not least, on behalf of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to our friends in South Africa and all over Africa.